Information technologies (IT) are everywhere - from mobile phone in our pockets to sophisticated automation systems, implemented in large corporations, etc. The speed of the IT development is rather high; thus, the changes in the IT world can be called even revolutionary from time to time. This is a challenge for the project manager because it is very important to be on top of the situation and track the most efficient tools in order to be ready to implement them. This is the only way to be effective for a company in the best possible way - develop solutions that are the most efficient now. This paper explores the current situation with project management within IT and emphasizes the leadership, as the key quality of an effective IT project manager.
The IT project manager faces the undergoing pressure all the time. The situation changes so there is a constant need to keep an eye on the changes and act accordingly. Another crucial challenge is the need to be agile and learn something new in the process of the project development. Failure to do so can lead to the overall failure of the whole project. Finally, it is important to find the appropriate tools, solutions, and methodology to solve various issues in different situations as well. The misuse of the resources, lack of understanding how to use the personnel, or the overall inability to see the bigger picture from the beginning of the project development can be vital for the project management team and costly for any company (Cai, et al., n.d.; Hallows, 1998).
The methodology of the effective project management in the IT sphere can be described as the summary of the best practices in the project management in order to achieve maximum results. The traditional approach in management is based on the belief that strong regulative methods, applied via the hierarchical infrastructure are able to solve any problem that might occur. However, as it was mentioned before, the current situation cannot allow such luxury as extra time for making decisions, using stiff hierarchy (Schwalbe, 2010; Taylor, 2004; Thomas, 2009).
The main idea is the agility of the process of making decisions and implementation of changes. This is a key to the success for any project management team. In order to achieve such agility there is a need to change the approach to the project-management development process. It can be done, following current recommendations. Furthermore, it is necessary to be ready to deal with changes. An organization should be treated as an adaptive system composed of intelligent living beings; the control over various processes should not be overall, in reasonable measures, it should be intellectual; an approach to the problem solution should be humanistic and rely more on people rather than tools and machines (Cai, et al., n.d.; Hallows, 1998).
The above-mentioned humanistic approach leads us to the conclusion that the project manager should have more than just a clear understanding of how to achieve the necessary goal. This person should have a number of qualities to be called a true leader of the team. The value of a true leadership has always been very high, but today it is above the sky. Only an individual with strong charisma and ability to make people follow the ideas and vision can be successful as an IT project manager (CC Pace Systems, n.d.).
The leadership in the modern business world cannot be overestimated, as well. However, a leader is not just a person with charismatic appearance and pleasant voice - this is an individual, who knows what to do in any possible situation. This person shows the way and opportunities to other people, is able to teach and learn, ready to listen, and knows when to support. In general, a true leader is an individual that unites different people to achieve the goals, appropriate for the majority.
What are the qualities that a true leader should have? Of course, this person should have a vision of the current and future development, and be able to share his opinion in a clear, understandable manner with people, who follow. This is a key to the success; otherwise, people will simply not understand why they should do something. A true leader should possess excellent communicative skills in order to be able to communicate with different people at any level. This person should be able to persuade, negotiate, support, and in other word be an agile, effective communicator (Barry, n.d.; Petty, 2009).
The true leader should always remember about the integrity of the team. This individual should be an example of ethical, committed behavior to be able to demand the same from other team members. The set of ethical values, such as honesty, respect, trust, etc., followed by the leader is the basis for the team integrity and efficient work. Of course, a natural leader should not be negative (Barry, n.d.; Petty, 2009). Enthusiastic people give others the inspiration to achieve the goals despite the hardest challenges. True leader should generate optimism but not tons of excuses why the project cannot be completed.
In addition, an ability to empathize is very important for an individual with leadership qualities. Team member has families, life outside the company and the true leader should be aware of possible problems and be ready to support in reasonable measures. Without any doubts, a leader must be competent in the area. Otherwise, there is no place for respect and trust. Another important feature of the true leader is an ability to delegate tasks (Barry, n.d.; Petty, 2009). This is the way to show that the team leader can rely on subordinates and trust them, as professionals. Besides, micromanagement of everything around is too time consuming and ineffective.
There are situations in project management when cold mind and steady nerves are more important than anything else is. The true leader should be a strong person, who can handle the pressure of any kind. Team members should never see how their leader sweats under any pressure. In addition, the true leader should be able to build a team consisting of very different people. This individual should be strong enough to hold people together and be able to apply the appropriate leadership style during different stages of the team development (Barry, n.d.; Petty, 2009).
Finally, the true leader must be ready to face various problems and know how to solve them. It is utterly important to be creative, open-minded, and listen the team in order to obtain useful information (Barry, n.d.; Petty, 2009). The real leader should be able to admit mistakes, but should never lose respect and trust of the team by arrogance and stubbornness. These qualities are not appropriate for the true leader and should never be shown for the team (Petty, 2009).
IT Project Managers' Role
IT project managers are special people in both business and IT worlds. They are able to mix the technical knowledge with general management skills to achieve the needed result. What is necessary to make a project successful, with some kind of guarantee? Is it just the presence of a good leader in the team? On the other hand, maybe, simple following the above-mentioned methodologies will make any project successful. There is no clear and simple answer to these questions. The truth is always somewhere in the middle.
Any project will succeed only when a true leader, who is ready to change, adapt, be agile, and learn in the process, heads its development. Project management is one of the strategic directions for the development of any company, along with the operations management and others. The overall implementation of IT into the business processes has made IT project managers the key figures inside companies and organizations of a different kind. Thus, the need in qualified IT project managers continuously grows.
Project management gives many opportunities for managers, who are ready to accept the challenge and desire to become true professionals, eventually. Dave Cooperider, senior IT project manager with eight years of experience gave advice to the starters in the interview to the Salary Stories (2010) "..I will say that the job is very rewarding, however the journey to get yourself to the point of being certified and more importantly respected and trusted by your peers is a very long road. Respect is the name of this game. If you do not have people's respect moreover they do not trust you, then you can forget about people wanting to work for you, especially when you have no authority over them. When starting out down the path of becoming a certified project manager, the first thing you need to ask yourself is how serious am I?" This is a very hard to work with high stakes, but it is worthy of all the efforts because it gives more than takes.
The role of the IT project manager has changed from the simple IT support staff member to the major figure in the development of sophisticated projects, aimed to improve the profitability of a company in the long run. Thus, the IT project managers have changed, as well. Being a successful IT project manager means being a true leader with a rather long list of important qualities.
The rapid changes in the IT world have made project managers adapt and change. The methodology of projects' implementation has changed too. Flexibility, adaptation, agile methods of managing the personnel, developing solutions, and solving issues - these are the keys to success in the modern business world.